Tucked away on a cliff on the northeastern coast of Koh Samui and surrounded by mature trees is the Samujana Villas estate. It contains 27 villas, each with spectacular unobstructed views of the ocean and the beach. Unlike most villa developments, Samujana evolved one villa at a time in the early years.

It was said to be the brainchild of British banker Steve Hayward, who was based in Hong Kong and looking for a beachfront paradise some 15 years ago. When direct flights from Hong Kong to Koh Samui took off, Thailand’s second-largest island quickly became Hayward’s favourite weekend getaway.

He began to search for an ideal site in Koh Samui to build his own holiday villa, and his criteria were that it had to have a dramatic setting with uninterrupted sea view and located not too far from the airport. When he found a secluded site of 45 rai (775,008 sq ft) in the northeastern corner of Koh Samui, he engaged Gary Fell of Gfab Architects to design the villa. It was Fell’s breakout villa project, propelling him to the forefront of villa design in Thailand, Indonesia and India.

A view of the Samujana villas perched on a hillslope

Uninterrupted sea view from the sunken lounge of one of the villas

The origins

While construction of the villa was underway, Hayward went on a trip to Morocco. The story is that while he was sitting in a café in Marrakesh, he overheard a conversation between two Moroccan gentlemen at the next table. The word jana was mentioned several times in their conversation and Hayward liked the sound of it so much, he turned around and asked them what it meant. They told him jana was the Moroccan word for coral.

On his flight home, Hayward kept mulling over the word and since his new villa in Koh Samui overlooked a coral bay, he named the property Samui Jana, later changing it to Samujana, which remains the name of the property today.

Hayward’s four-bedroom, five-bathroom villa is situated right in the heart of Samujana. It has a built-up area of 8,137.6 sq ft and sits on a 17,319 sq ft plot perched on an outcrop. From the infinity pool, one can enjoy a spectacular view of Hanuman Bay and the island of Koh Matiang. Even though it was the very first villa built in Samujana, it became known as Villa No 7.

Once Hayward’s villa was completed in late 2004/early 2005, it became so popular among his friends that he rarely had a chance to enjoy it. That was when he suggested that they build their own villas on the site. Over the years, 19 villas, including Hayward’s, sprouted up. While the interior of each villa is unique and designed to the specifications of the individual owner, the exterior has a consistent look, and all the villas were designed by Fell. The initial villa owners in the first phase were mainly British expatriates living in Hong Kong — either Hayward’s friends or friends of friends. All 19 villas were completed five years ago. Over the years, some of the villa owners also rented out their villas to other holidaymakers.

Villa No 27 has a 270° view